Japan Approves Controversial Bills Loosening Limits on Military

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, sits among his cabinet members at at the Lower House of the parliament in Tokyo, Japan, September 18. The Japanese government began a final push on Friday to enact contentious defence legislation that could let its troops fight overseas for the first time since World War Two, despite public protests and delaying tactics by the opposition. Toru Hanai/Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - The upper house of Japan's parliament approved security bills on Saturday clearing the way for a policy shift that could allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since 1945, a milestone for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's agenda of loosening the limits of the pacifist constitution on the military.

Abe says the shift, the biggest change in Japan's defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as from a rising China.

But the bills have sparked massive protests from ordinary citizens who say they violate the post-World War constitution and threaten to ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace.